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Reports from global day of protest against union bans in Germany (Update 02-20)
On January 29/30, 2010, there were protests in at least 52 cities in 20 countries all over the planet against a verdict that prohibits workers in Berlin from affiliating themselves with the union of their choice. The bosses at the Babylon Mitte Cinema managed to find a court to ban the FAU Berlin workers association from calling itself a union. The bosses at the Babylon are now trying to get the FAU Berlin charged with fines or even imprisoned. The background to this bizarre judicial maneuver, which is unprecedented in post-fascist Germany, is a month-long labor dispute between the FAU shop-floor and the management of the Babylon Mitte Cinema. On this special page you will find reports, photos and links about actions during the global day of protest. More information about the conflict can be found on our German language special section and our English language special section.
Bratislava (Slovakia) | January 28, 2010
On January 28th, Priama akcia - Bratislava organized a solidarity action with the FAU Berlin (IWA/AIT Germany). Ten people (members of PA and other FAU supporters) met in front of the German embassy in Bratislava, Slovakia, to protest against the ban imposed on FAU-Berlin, which practically forbids the FAU-B from working as a union. The action is part of the international protest days called for by the FAU between the 29th and 30th of January. The activists demanded to meet the ambassador in order to hand him the protest letters and express their discontent. We were told by a clerk that he had a meeting but we could wait 15-20 minutes on the consulate premises. We were outside taking photos in front of the embassy for three or four minutes, when we were suddenly approached by the same clerk who told us that two of us could meet with an embassy representative immediately. We agreed and two of the activists went inside, explained the reasons for the protest, and handed the protest letters to the representative in his office. During the brief encounter, the representative promised to inform the Ministry of Foreign Affairs about the protest. Solidarity and greetings to FAU-Berlin. You are not alone!
Berlin (Germany) | January 29, 2010
In the early morning hours, members of the ASJ (anarcho-syndicalist youth) Berlin unraveled a banner across the street from the ver.di union offices protesting ver.di's manager-friendly role in the conflict. To get a better impression watch the video.
Bonn (Germany) | January 29, 2010
Members of the FAU Bonn local federation and the ASJ Bonn handed a petition to J. Reppschläger, who is a local representative of the Left party. The FAU Bonn and ASJ Bonn called on the Left to address the conflict. Leaflets were also distributed. Mr. Reppschläger promised to spread the word among the members of the Left in the region and to support the FAU Berlin's cause.
Hanover (Germany) | January 29, 2010
The FAU Hanover handed over an award for "kindness to bosses" in absentia to ver.di Berlin and the Left Berlin at the Hanover offices of ver.di and the Left. While two protesters delivered the respective awards, others leafleted outside the buildings. Protest action in Hanover continued on Saturday where leaflets were distributed in several districts of the capital of Lower Saxony.
Hamburg (Germany) | January 29, 2010
With the slogan "Does ver.di support union bans?" a crowd gathered at the Hamburg ver.di offices at the Besenbinderhof building. The FAU Hamburg called on ver.di to address the Berlin Regional Court's ban on union activities. (More information on the FAU Hamburg site).
Gijon (Spain) | January 29, 2010
Members of the CNT-AIT from Gijon (Asturia) held a protest meeting. The protests had the support of all regional CNT-AIT unions. There is a detailed report in this PDF file.
Thessaloniki (Greece) | January 29, 2010
Some 60 members of the Anti-authoritarian Movement and the anarcho-syndicalist union E.S.E protested in front of the German consulate in Thessaloniki.
Karlsruhe (Germany) | January 29, 2010
Leaflets were distributed in the Karlsruhe-Südstadt quarter.
Brussels (Belgium) | January 29, 2010
At 10 am. some 15 people gathered at the offices of the German representative in Brussels. There was a banner with “Free unions forbidden in Germany: Solidarity with FAU-IWA” written on it. Police showed up and tried to intimidate people by systematically checking their ID and trying to illegally seize leaflets. The protest was filmed from inside the German embassy as well as from a less-than-discrete minivan on the corner. After the protest the crowd joined a demonstration organized by a less-than-free Belgian union, where they unfurled their banner and the distributed leaflets.
Bilbao (Spain) | January 29, 2010
Some 20 CNT Bilbao local syndicalists distributed leaflets in front of the German consulate in Calle San Vicente to inform passersby about the Berlin conflict. A letter of protest was also handed over to the consulate.
Münster (Germany) | January 29, 2010
Accompanied by heavy snow and freezing rain, FAU Münsterland and ASJ Münster distributed several hundred leaflets at an information booth in the city centre. Leafleting will continue at several sites in the next few days.
Jerez (Spain) | January 29, 2010
A group of syndicalists from Rota, Jerez and Puerto de Santa Maria gathered in front of the German consulate in Jerez in solidarity with their German IWA sister union FAU. After the protest they had an appointment with the German consul in order to hand over a letter of protest and to explain the reason for the protest.
Darmstadt (Germany) | January 29, 2010
In the evening there was a protest in snow-covered Darmstadt at the Luisenplatz. Members of FAU Darmstadt, Libertarian Socialist Group (LSG) Bergstraße and the FAU Frankfurt informed the public with leaflets and speeches. There was also an improvised open-air showing of video clips related to the conflict in the Babylon Mitte Cinema. The last speech was about the situation of the Serbian “Belgrade 6” comrades and the demands for their immediate release were applauded.
Vienna (Austria) | January 29, 2010
A dozen members of the “Föderation der Arbeitersyndikate” (federation of workers' syndicates) Vienna local protested for the freedom to choose which union to join and the de-facto ban of the FAU Berlin in front of the German embassy. Leaflets where distributed and a letter of protest was handed over to embassy staff. (More information on the FAS website)
Nuremberg (Germany) | January 29, 2010
A manifestation was held in front of the Nuremberg court building. Then the crowd demonstrated through Nuremberg from the labour court to the offices of the DGB (the biggest trade union federation in Germany). A info booth was set up there and leaflets were distributed.
Philadelphia (USA) | January, 29, 2010
Despite freezing cold weather on January 29 members of the Philadelphia General Membership Branch of the Industrial Workers of the World picketed the Philadelphia German Consulate as part of an International day of action in solidarity with the FAU-B or (Free Workers Union) in Berlin, Germany. The picket was a great success, and the message was conveyed to the German Consul, as well as many others in the building and the general public. The Philadelphia IWW plans to continue to monitor the situation in Berlin, and will keep the pressure on until the repression of the FAU is ended. (There is a detailed report at the IWW website ).
Marseilles (France) | January 29, 2010
Members of the CNT gathered at the German general consulate in the Mediterranean metropolis. Passersby and even the police was very surprised. “Is it true? One should think Germany is now a democratic country!”. The vice-consul, who was obviously informed about the conflict, said he could do nothing about it, as it involved the separation of powers. This was to be expected. CNT will continue to inform the public and organize protests - of course confronting the “correct powers”...
Frankfurt/M (Germany) | January 29, 2010
Members of the FAU Frankfurt local distributed leaflets in two neighbourhoods of the city. The flyer detailed the repression against the FAU Berlin and explained that, for the first time in the Federal Republic of Germany, unionist might soon be imprisoned.
Berne (Switzerland) | 29. January 2010
Members of FAU Berne, together with other supporters, protested in front of the Berne central railway station. They unraveled a big banner and distributed some 600 fliers. Most people reacted with interest and were supportive. (More information on the FAU Bern website)
Katrineholm (Sweden) | January 29, 2010
Members of the local federation of the union SAC and activists from the communist council organization "Förbundet Arbetarsolidaritet" handed out leaflets concerning the repression against the FAU Berlin.
London (UK) | January 29, 2010
There was a protest in front of the German embassy with members of the “Solidarity Federation” and the AF. (Pictures)
Athens (Greece) | January 29, 2010
There was a protest in front of the German embassy in Athens. Some 60 people attended the picket. Several hundred leaflets were distributed and speeches were also held. The embassy was blocked by MAT special police troopers. Lots of police were also on standby on nearby roads in Athens's Kolonáki district. (Photos)
Barcelona (Spain) | January 29, 2010
More than 50 protesters followed the anarcho-syndicalist union CNT's call for protest in front of the German consulate in Barcelona. The protesters leafleted and carried a big banner with the Catalan slogan “Per la libertat sindical en Alemany” (For union freedom in Germany).
Copenhagen (Denmark) | January 29, 2010
We (Libertære Socialister København) met up at 9.40 in the morning and went to the German embassy, where we unfolded a banner we had made in support of the FAU. Well in advance we had written a letter protesting the decisions of the Berlin court and demanding freedom of association, which we then signed for the purpose of delivering to the embassy. We were told that everyone was in a meeting, so we could hand it over to the guard, or wait twenty minutes. We chose the latter. Standing there, lots of people came by to ask what we were protesting, and we were glad to be able to talk to people about the importance of workers' rights to organize how they chose. People in general seemed very sympathetic and encouraged us to take the issue to the media, which we had also tried. After some time, one of our members was allowed into the embassy and taken up to see the German ambassador in Denmark himself, a Dr. Johann Christoph Jessen. The letter was delivered and they discussed the matter for some 10-15 minutes - apparently the ambassador and his staff had googled the controversy before we were allowed in :) Finally they said that they would translate the letter into German and send it back through the official channels.
Plauen (Germany) | January 29, 2010
Members of the FAU Südwestsachsen branch held a briefing about the FAU Berlin at the project "Schuldenberg". Some 20 people attended the meeting and decided to form a new FAU branch in Plauen.
Stuttgart (Germany) | January 29, 2010
At the S21 protests, the FAU Stuttgart distributed leaflets, which informed about the conflict at Babylon Mitte Cinema and the de-facto union ban against the FAU Berlin.
Oslo (Norway) | January 29 and 30, 2010
Members of the Norsk Syndikalistik Forbund (Norwegian syndicalist federation) picketed the Goethe-Institut (a global German cultural institution) in Oslo distributing leaflets about the repression of the FAU Berlin. There was another picket in the Norwegian capital on Saturday, January 30.
Zaragoza (Spain) | January 29, 2009
Members of the CNT Zaragoza local held a protest against the assault on the freedom to unionise in front of the the German consulate in Zaragoza.
Granada (Spain) | January 29, 2010
Members of CNT Granada set up an information booth and distributed more than 1,200 leaflets about the situation in Berlin within little more than an hour. People showed a lot of interest. The comrades think that this may be because people think that as a consequence of the global capitalist crisis, other European countries may follow Berlin's lead in repressing the workers' right to organize in a union of their choice.
Kassel (Germany) | January 29, 2009
Members and friends of the FAU Kassel local visited two cinemas to inform workers, visitors and pedestrians about the conflict in Babylon Mitte Cinema. They were given a warm welcome and permitted to place fliers and posters in both of the cinemas. They talked to employees as well as to customers; the reactions was generally very positive. (Detailed report on the FAU Kassel website in German)
Dublin (Ireland) | January 29, 2010
Members of WSM and Organise! gathered on a cold and sunny Janaury afternoon in the leafy Dublin surburb of Booterstown outside the German Embassy to protest the recent Berlin Regional Court decision to prohibit the Free Workers' Union (FAU; Freie Arbeiterinnen- und Arbeiter-Union) from calling itself a union.
Malaga (Spain) | January 29, 2010
Members of the CNT Malaga local gathered in front of the German consulate in Malaga to call on Germany to withdraw the de-facto ban against the FAU Berlin and to respects the freedom of unionise.
Berlin (Germany) | January 29, 2010
Members of FAU Berlin and ASJ (anarcho-syndicalist youth) Berlin took to the streets for a rally covering 6 different locations. At the end, they unfurled a banner in front of the Babylon Mitte Cinema and informed customers about the politics of the management.
Phoenix (USA) | January 29, 2010
Friday morning, Jan. 29th, the Phoenix branch of the Industrial Workers of the World held a modest-sized picket in front of the local German Consulate in Phoenix, Arizona. We are confident that our formidable and boisterous protest prevented the Consulate from doing business this morning: they refused to answer the phone or come to the door. We believe that they either fled the scene in the before dawn hours or, trapped inside as we approached, they chose to shutter themselves in and wait us out. Our branch sent out emails and called our local IWW members and supporters encouraging them to send protest to both the local ‘volunteer’ Consulate and to the Embassy in Washington, D.C. To the workers at Babylon and the FAU: Your fight is our fight! Stay strong! To the German government: The FAU cannot be defeated! Workers’ power and international solidarity will prevail! For the Cooperative Commonwealth.
Trieste (Italy) | January 29, 2010
About a dozen syndicalists held a protest meeting in front of the Goethe Institut. They distributed leaflets that informed about the limits on the freedom of association in Germany.
Dhaka (Bangladesh) | January 30, 2010
We the National Garment Workers Federation (NGWF), Bangladesh today 30.01.10 organized a protest meetings in our central office. In the banner the message is very clear.
Duisburg (Germany) | January 30, 2010
Some 15 syndicalists from the FAU Duisburg and nearby locals leafleted Duisburg's city centre for a couple of hours. Several hundred fliers were distributed.
Düsseldorf (Germany) | January 30, 2010
Members of Düsseldorf's FAU branch distributed leaflets at six cinemas in capital of North Rhine-Westphalia. The fliers not only informed about the FAU Berlin's situation and the shop-floor in the Babylon Mitte Cinema but also about working conditions in Düsseldorf's cinemas.
Valencia (Spain) | January 30, 2010
Some 20 CNT Castellón and CNT Valencia members gathered in front of the German consulate. For more than one and a half hours they distributed several hundred leaflets and held speeches demanding that workers in Germany have the freedom to organize into the union of their choice.
Recklinghausen (Germany) | January 30, 2010
Members of the ASJ Herne / Recklinghausen handed over an open letter to the ver.di trade union, calling on the union to take a stand against union bans. They took the opportunity to talk to a union bureaucrat who told them that ver.di is not willing to accept any competition, no matter which side they are on.
Lille (France) | January 30, 2010
In this town in northern France, several dozen CNT members gathered at Place de la République in order to support FAU in its struggle for union freedoms.
Frankfurt/M (Germany) | January 30, 2010
3,000 people demonstrated under the motto "The university belongs to all - Let's take our lives in our own hands!" in Frankfurt. There were two contributions from union speakers in addition to those from students and social revolutionaries. A speaker from the GEW trade union (teachers' union which is part of the DGB) spoke about education politics and a comrade from FAU Frankfurt informed about repression against grassroots groups, the grotesque prohibition of the FAU Berlin by the courts and the labour conflict in the Babylon Mitte Cinema. The invitation to talk at the demonstration as well as the reaction of the crowd clearly showed that the public has a different opinion as to what a union is than the Berlin Regional Court. Comrades distributing leaflets had the same positive experience.
Florence (Italy) | January 30, 2010
On January 30th the U.S.I.-A.I.T. Tuscany Federation protested in front of the German Consulate in Florence against the de-facto ban of the FAU Berlin. We express our solidarity with your struggle for worker's emancipation. Stand firm!
Madrid (Spain) | January 30, 2010
Some 50 people gathered in Madrid in front of the German embassy "for the freedom to unionise - solidarity with the FAU!" The protest was organized by the CNT-IWA Madrid local. Apart from local CNT members and sympathizers, the protest was attended by delegates from a federal CNT plenary in Madrid.
Halle/Saale (Germany) | January 30, 2010
FAU members and sympathizers gathered at Halle's marketplace to inform the public about the situation in the Babylon Mitte Cinema and the fact that the FAU Berlin has been banned from calling itself a union. Several hundred flyers were distributed.
Liverpool (UK) | January 30, 2010
On the 30th of January, the Northern Region of the “Solidarity Federation” (SF-IWA) handed out leaflets at the Rally for Public Services, a march organized by trade unions in Liverpool.
Gothenburg (Sweden) | January 30, 2010
During the ongoing Gothenburg Film Festival, Göteborg's local section of the SAC held two actions in solidarity with the FAU Berlin. Outside the Hagabion Cinema we handed out fliers regarding the troubling case. "It's happening again. The German union [sic] FAU has been banned. It's not a movie, it's reality". We were met with a great deal of interest. The Hagabion also let us leave a bunch of fliers in their lobby. Other members from our union stood with black and red banners outside the cinema Draken and handed out flyers. Despite the freezing cold, around 400 fliers were handed out and 100 posters were hung in the centre of the city. We are planning more actions this week while the film festival is still running. Keep on struggling, and know that we support your right to unionise.
Leipzig (Germany) | January, 2010
Members of the FAU Leipzig local distributed leaflets in the city's pedestrian area.
Wellington (New Zealand) | January 30, 2010
Members of the Wellington branch of AWSM and others held a protest meeting at the German embassy.
Aachen (Germany) | January 30, 2010
Members of the FAU Aachen local distributed leaflets at all cinemas in downtown Aachen informing about the labour conflict at the Babylon Mitte Cinema and the repression against the FAU Berlin. There were discussions with the cinema workers at various cinemas about the situation and possible ways to show solidarity.
Schwerin (Germany) | January 30, 2010
Members of the FAU Westmecklenburg branch distributed leaflets in downtown Schwerin.
Berlin (Germany) | January 30, 2010
There was a podium discussion at the "Rote Salon" of the famous "Volksbühne" theatre about "New forms of labour and collective organizing". Some 100 people attended the presentation and discussion. Speakers include labour activists from the FAU and other unions, lawyers, social scientists and others. The underlying motive of this event was to bring the matter of the de-facto union ban into a broader social framework. The audience and speakers expressed their solidarity with the FAU and condemned the verdict.
Kiev (Ukrainian) | January 30, 2010
Members of the “Pryama diya” (direct action) union picketed the German embassy in the Ukrainian capital in solidarity with the FAU. One of their banners stated “Ne zli kota!” (Never make a black cat angry!). The protest in Kiev also had a local reference - the Ukrainian parliament is discussing the draft of a law “on social dialogue”, which only gives legitimacy to trade unions with large numbers of members. If it becomes law, numerous independent Ukrainian trade unions could lose their rights.
MORE PROTESTS AFTER JANUARY 29/30
Athens (Greece | February 1, 2010
There was a film projection scheduled today in front of the Goethe-Institut. We decided to hand out leaflets there. When the first comrades arrived at Omirou road, they noticed a strong police presence at and inside the building as well as some 30 non-uniformed cops in the others streets. There was a poster at the entrance door informing that the film was postponed “for security reasons” to February 2. We decided to adjust our solidarity action and to return the next day. Solidarity is a weapon!
Paris (France) | February 4, 2010
The Goethe Institut in Paris and ARTE TV presented an avant-premiere of the movie The Revolt of the Movie-makers to celebrate the 60th anniversary of Berlinale festival. A group of CNT-AIT militants also attended the event to inform the audience about the Babylon Mitte Cinema workers' struggle and the ban against FAU-IWA Berlin. They also wanted to highlight the links between the Berlinale and the Babylon, which is one of the festival's venues. They entered the Goethe institut and distributed leaflets titled The Revolt of the Movie-workers, which explained the case. It also ask people to call on the Berlinale organisation to address the situation and tell them to cease using the Babylon as a venue until the bosses stop their action against FAU-IWA. The discussion with the audience was quite good, but the Goethe Institut director was absolutely furious. The first words out of her mouth were, "Why are you doing this? Why are you concerned with this issue: You should only be concerned with French issues, not with foreign ones...". They explained to her the meaning of the words solidarity and internationalism. She then called security, which arrived discreetly... After we distributed leaflets to everyone there, we left the Institut as quietly as we came. The leaflet is on our website.
Valencia (Spain) | February 5, 2010
Some 20 members of the Spanish union CGT picketed the German consulate in Valencia because of the repression against the FAU Berlin. The consul tried to ignore the protests, but after a while, he agreed to accept and forward a protest note. This was the second time the consulate in Valencia had been targeted by protests within a couple of days - on January 30th the CNT had already gathered there for a protest in solidarity with the FAU Berlin.
Leeds (UK) | February 5, 2010
Leeds AF held a demonstration alongside West Yorkshire Solidarity Federation and Leeds Class War in front of the office of the German Honorary Consul in Leeds to protest the ban of the FAU-B, the Berlin section of the Freie Arbeiterinnen- und Arbeiter-Union (Free Workers Union, or FAU). A letter protesting the persecution of the FAU was handed to the consul, and leaflets were distributed to workers and passers-by explaining the dispute and expressing our solidarity with our comrades in Germany.
Lyon (France) | February 5, 2010
Members of the CNT-AIT south-east region protested the verdict against the FAU Berlin at the local Goethe Institut. They handed out leaflets at a meeting of the European deputees M. Rivasi and E. Joly (both Green party). People attending the event gave them a good welcome.
Paris (France) | February 11, 2010
A couple of dozen members of the Paris regional of the «Conféderation National du Travail» (CNT-F) took to the streets in the evening of february 11, to protest against the de-facto ban of FAU Berlin in front of the German embassy. Apart from banners and leaflets, the comrades carried a mobile sound system, that was used by Fred Alpi for a small live concert in support of the FAU Berlin.
Lissabon (Portugal) | February 14, 2010
In response to your request for solidarity against the illegalization of FAU-Berlin, members of the Portuguese section of the IWA have delivered a protest letter to the German Embassy in Lisbon and sent a fax and an email to the Berlinale film festival. We have also distributed leaflets in a German Embassy sponsored film festival at Cinema São Jorge, in Lisbon, and we have also spread posters around the area of the German embassy and downtown Lisbon. We have more actions planned for following weeks.
Tokyo (Japan) | February 15, 2010
On February 15, ten members of the «Freeter Zenppan Rodo Kumiai» protested in front of the German Embassy in Tokyo. We still have some freedom to unionize, but we do not take this freedom for granted. Your struggle and the embassy protest has received strong voices of support from within our union. We weren't able to get as far as talk to someone responsible, but we will keep the pressure on until the embassy takes the issue seriously.
We'd like to thank all those of you in Germany and all around the planet who expressed their solidarity with the FAU Berlin, and their disgust with the management of the Babylon Mitte Cinema and the scandalous verdicts of the Berlin courts. We are deeply touched that we have been the cause of one of the biggest waves of international solidarity within the anti-authoritarian workers movement in the the past years. We also would like to thank all those in Germany and other corners of the planet who took action but did not send in reports. And of course those like the Freeters union in Japan, who will take action in the coming days. We will try to complete this list within the next days and weeks. The struggle has just begun. We were therefore glad to hear that many more unions and organisations - though they did not manage to do anything this time - have announced that they will take action next time. For reports and any further information please contact firstname.lastname@example.org and have a look at our special section.